The family of slain Pulitzer-winning Danish Siddiqui has lodged a complaint with the International Criminal Court to probe his killing and to bring to book those responsible, including high-level commanders and leaders of the Taliban, their lawyer Avi Singh said on Tuesday.
Siddiqui, 38, was on assignment in Afghanistan when he was killed on July 16 last year. The journalist was covering clashes between Afghan troops and the Taliban in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar city.
Addressing a press conference, Singh said the formal complaint has been filed against Taliban commanders, including Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, Supreme Commander of the Taliban; Mullah Hassan Akhund, Head of the Taliban Leadership Council; Mawlawi Muhammad Yaqoob Mujahid, Minister of Defence, Taliban; Gul Agha Sherzai, Governor of the Kandahar Province; Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesperson; and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Head of Taliban’s Political Office in Qatar.
The complaint has also been filed against local commanders as well as perpetrators.
Singh said they will also be seeking help from the Indian government in the matter.
“We have just filed before the International Criminal Court (ICC) a complaint with regard to the condition of war crimes and crimes against humanity on and about July 16 in the context of Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist Danish Siddiqui’s murder,” he said.
The lawyer said the complaint has been filed on behalf of Siddiqui’s parents — Akhtar Siddiqui and Shahida Akhtar.
Singh said the journalist was attacked by the Red Unit of the Taliban. He said the body was mutilated, including being run over by a heavy vehicle in public. The body revealed marks of brutal torture and 12 bullets’ entry and exit points, the lawyer said.
“The Taliban targeted and killed Siddiqui because he was a journalist and an Indian. That is an international crime. In the absence of rule of law in Afghanistan, the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate and try the perpetrators of Siddiqui’s murder. As the Taliban strives for international legitimacy, it must face accountability for its past actions,” he said.
Singh further said there are sufficient independent sources on what happened on July 16 after the journalist was injured in the attack where he was on an assignment by Reuters.
“He was taken to a mosque for medical treatment and despite the mosque being historically an international customary place of refuge, it was attacked by the Taliban. Siddiqui had very clear identification that he was Press. He had his passport on him and he was not a combatant. He was then illegally detained, by all independent accounts, (and) he was tortured thereafter. In fact, his bullet-proof jacket was intact when his body was received by the family,” Singh added.
Siddiqui’s brother Omar Siddiqui said the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
“It has been quite painful with what happened with Danish and we have not totally come out of this. I know it is a very long journey which we are taking, but it is a moral obligation and our responsibility to pursue what happened with him, and the perpetrators should be brought to justice,” he said.
Siddiqui’s mother, Shahida Akhtar said, “Danish, our loving son was murdered by the Taliban for simply carrying out his journalistic duties. He was subjected to barbaric levels of torture and mutilation while in their custody. Danish always stood for honesty and integrity in his work. He always showcased the pain and suffering of the people. He was brave and courageous all along,” she said.
Singh said the torture and murder of Siddiqui is not an isolated case. The Taliban’s military code of conduct, published as the Layha, has a policy of attacking civilians, including journalists. It has claimed responsibility, with impunity, for the targeted abductions and killings of journalists and other members of the civil society.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documents over 70,000 civilian casualties attributed to the Taliban.
The International Criminal Court has been engaged in an ongoing investigation on international crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, in Afghanistan, over which it has jurisdiction after Afghanistan’s government acceded to the Rome Statute.